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POLITICS: Referendums to give every citizen their say.

A campaign calling for the public to be allowed a greater say on major issues by the use of referendums was launched today.

Saira Khan, who appeared on BBC2's The Apprentice, said her campaign, called OUR SAY, aims to give "every citizen a direct say on the issues that really matter to them".

Declaring politics in Britain as "broken", Ms Khan called for politicians to "get serious about sharing power with the people".

The OUR SAY campaign claims to offer a "creative and constructive way" of giving people a stake in the democratic process.

It says low turnout at elections and public cynicism are the result of the political classes not listening to ordinary voters.

Under the proposals, the trigger for a referendum would be a petition supported by 2.5 per cent of the electorate. This would equate to one million people for a national referendum or around 4,000 people at local level, it is claimed.

Signatures would be gathered within a set time period and verified by the Electoral Commission. Any outcome would then be binding on Parliament or the local authority.

Referendums would be held once a year on a new "Referendum Day" which would coincide with local elections in May.

OUR SAY said there would be strict limits on expenditure during the referendum campaigns and the Electoral Commission would have the duty of setting a "fair and balanced" question.

The media would also be required to ensure that there was equal coverage for both sides of any referendum question.

Launching the campaign, Ms Khan said: "Politics in Britain is broken. So many people are disillusioned and cynical about the way the system works.

"It's no good simply tinkering. Politicians have to get serious about sharing power with the people.

"That's what OUR SAY aims to do, by giving every citizen a direct say over the issues that really matter."

Ms Khan intends to take her campaign around Britain and she will be speaking at each of the main party conferences, touring university campuses and attending meetings organised by campaign groups.

She is also looking for a local authority willing to trial a referendum for a controversial local issue.

She said similar systems operate successfully in other countries.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 4, 2006
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